Something So Big

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Month in Review

June always goes by super fast. The kids and Mark are still in school as the month begins, but a few weeks later summer vacation is in full swing. Since football practice starts early August, we feel like the 4th of July is "mid-summer". Therefore we try to cram as much fun into June and July as is humanly possible.

It's been a whirlwind for me, the official chauffeur to summer school, t-ball, and softball. I shouldn't complain because next month will be worse with a longer drive to swimming lessons thrown in there (four weeks, 2 days a week). At any rate, as I look back at pictures of the month in review, I can see how blessed we've been to spend it with friends and family.

My friend Jodi came over with her two youngest children, Hannah and Samuel, the new guy born in April. What a beautiful family they are!

The end of the school year marks not only teacher retirements, but also teachers moving to other districts. Our school was no exception, as one of Mark's best friends prepares to teach in a larger school come fall. As athletic director, Mark made this shadow box for Darb to commemorate all of his years of coaching and service to our school and community. We're going to miss you Darby! (Now who's gonna help me drive Cy to the emergency room the next time he cracks his head open??)

Cy and I got a rare "date night" out together at the Mother-Son bowling event. It was a lot of fun talking with my little boy (who's not so little, as you can see) and not being interrupted by his sisters. He bowled pretty well, and I had the best score of my life...a 133 !!

Then it was time for our little girls to graduate from kindergarten. Paige and Shae were sooooo excited to have the whole day alone with Mommy to enjoy the "bathroom bus" and a field trip to a children's museum!

Next it was our niece Kelsey's turn to graduate, this time from high school. A lot of her cousins defected from her party over to a nearby park for a rousing game of "King of the Balance Beam" (or something like that).

Once the kids were out of school, they turned the upstairs playroom into an American Doll History Museum. Ally was tour guide, Cy was co-curator, Paige was gift shop clerk, and Shae was the custodian. The kids did a great job on this and took every visitor to our house on a tour for the entire month. I'm anxious to see what exhibit they come up with for July !

On Mark's first "official" day off from school, we took a trip up to Madison to visit the Vilas Park Zoo. The highlights of our visit were the children's playground area and the prancing tiger.

Then we spent three hours hiking and letterboxing at beautiful Governor Dodge State Park.

That first Friday "off", we were blessed with several visitors throughout the day. One of them was Grandma Jan, who helped the kids weed their playground (what Daddy likes to call "5110 County B Park" whenever the kids whine "Can we go to a park today??").

The next week we prepared for our big weekend trip "up north". One of the things that finally got done was installing a dog door for Mickey. It took him a while to get used to it; he prefers exiting to re-entering the garage, for some reason.

Our longest family road trip led us to a very very fun weekend at Lake Surprise! Thanks again, Uncle Greg and Aunt Marin!

Last week as temperatures raged into the 90s with high humidity, Mark created our own little water park here at home. Bonzai!!!!

All month I've been getting ready for the 5th annual Potosi Vacation Bible School, putting the final touches on the Bible lessons, music CDs, and disseminating information to a staff of over 25 people. We have 79 kids signed up, our largest number to date! Go God!!

We re-connected with our friends Annika, Ava, and Astrid yesterday. They have such a lovely home in the woods, and their trampoline was a big hit with the kids. (This is a rare non-action shot!)

It was a very busy month!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Life is Like a Slip and Slide

The adventure awaits! It looks like fun, but it's also a little scary...

It's a lot easier to try it out if someone comes along for the ride with you.

Sometimes you just fly by the seat of your pants...

but sometimes you just have to plunge in, head-first.

You learn that if you go too fast, you'll often overshoot your target!

But it's better than going so slow (or not going at all)...then life just passes you by.

Sometimes you get knocked down...

But getting back up again for another round brings anticipation and joy!

In God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?--Psalm 56:11

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summertime Blues?

Alan Jackson sings "there ain't no cure" for them. I don't know for sure, but I hope he's wrong!

At any rate, I got 'em. I'm just so overwhelmed lately. Some things that are overwhelming me...

--Cleaning the house. And keeping the house clean. I know it's terrible to complain about such a thing when there are thousands of people who don't even have a house. It's just been a lifelong (or so it seems "lifelong") dream of mine to get the kids "on-board" with helping CONSISTENTLY around the house. We instituted "chore auctions" last year, where the kids can collect tickets for doing routine chores and redeem those tickets at a monthly auction for prizes such as "trip alone with Mom" or "open gym with Dad" or "dollar store treat". It worked great for a while, but then the older kids lost their interest in it, and now it's like pulling teeth to get them to consistently help out. I guess they want more money. Not gonna happen!

--Not getting enough time to write. Here I am, trying to get one or more blog postings done per week to keep the thing alive. I do this blog primarily for posterity, and I'm afraid if I don't stay at it, I'll let it go too long and eventually it will die out. I don't want that to happen, but it's so darn tough to write when I am constantly being pulled away to chauffeur kids to summer activities or feed them. And the blog is the LEAST of my writing goals. I haven't worked on writing a book for my business in like two months. I haven't worked on marketing my business, either! (Sorry Meg; I'm letting myself down and I'm letting you down. You're a great mentor!) I just can't get enough time in the day to string together more than five minutes toward a decent thought. I'm also writing my memoirs on Story of My Life, and my goal to write one story a week is in serious jeopardy as it is Friday and I have yet to make an entry this week. Saturday is usually complete family day - and we've got the lawn to mow. Which brings me to the next entry here.

--Keeping this place looking decent. My husband is outstanding in this area. He does 99.9% of the landscaping, planting, watering, gardening, etc. I help in some ways, but let's be honest--it would look like crap around here if it weren't for Mark. I like keeping things simple, and he likes to keep a fairly elaborate landscape. Thank God that Mark takes such an interest, but it gets really overwhelming to me because I look around and see all of the buildings/window frames/etc. that need painting, in addition to the general upkeep of the interior of the house. I just never seem to find the time or money to buy the materials needed to get it all done. It's all I can do to keep the INSIDE of the house halfway decent!

--People who bug me and threaten my contentment. I know, I know, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt; you are absolutely right. The thing is, I have a really hard time NOT consenting to them sometimes. There is one person in particular whom the very thought of causes me to get a sick feeling in my stomach. I pray about this person and my view of this person on a daily basis. I pray for peace and for understanding, but God hasn't helped me out with this one yet. I know it's in His own time, but it's so hard because meanwhile, I feel like my kids are getting exposed too much to this person's negative influence. Call it the maternal instinct to protect my kids. Call it petty. Call it whatever; it hurts and I hate feeling it. I have to remind myself of how tough the apostle Paul had it when he wrote "Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may know God's good, pleasing and perfect will." The people who really bug me are most definitely of "this world", and I am fighting so hard to not be part of it...and I want our kids to fight that conformity, as well. I feel like God is calling me to protect our kids and show them the right way to act and treat people. I know I can't shield my kids from every negative thing out there--that would be weird and unhealthy--but it is hard letting go. It's so hard to know when God wants me to fight, and when He wants me to stand back and watch.

--Dreams. Besides growing the book business, I have so many dreams that I want to accomplish someday. I'm afraid to talk about them here, for fear that months or years from now I'll read this and have proof that I STILL haven't accomplished them in the future. (Does that make any sense? ) I don't want to leave my comfort zone of not admitting what I really want to do. Although my thirties are wayyyyyyyyyyy better than my twenties were, in so many personal and spiritual ways, there was a certain level of creativity I had in my twenties that I wish I could get back. I do not regret staying home with our kids and leaving my job for one second, but I do regret that I haven't found a way to channel my thoughts and ideas into some tangible products, not much anyway.

--Our Vacation Bible School coming up in a few weeks. VBS is something I helped start in this town, and I am proud of what so many people have come together to do every year for our kids and for His glory. The thing is, this year's lessons are based on a curriculum by Answers in Genesis, and it's mindblowing. I can't really explain it all here--it would take too much time and too many words--but it's basically creation and the "young earth" mindset of a Christian worldview. I have been reading all kinds of adult books and research to back up the curriculum, and I am just amazed at what God has revealed to me through it all. I have been looking for ways to "prove" His existence and Creation, and even though I really don't have to prove anything to anyone, I feel like it's our job as Christian educators at this VBS to "know our stuff" and be able to answer controversial questions that may arise from the kids or their parents. I am a big proponent of public education (my husband is a teacher and I have been one B.C.), but my eyes are opening to the secular, evolutionary worldview which has brainwashed many of us since before I can remember. So many of us want to be followers of Jesus, but we don't know how to explain how this world started. So we think we can pick and choose what is in His Word that is "true" and what is "not true". Jesus warns us, "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?" How can we truly believe and rely on Jesus, if we don't believe what God the Father has done for us since the beginning of time? You either accept and believe it, or you don't. I know I'm getting deep here -- He is speaking to me a lot lately, and I am just overwhelmed by it all!

--Body image and aging issues. A direct contrast and contradiction to that which I speak of above!! See, I am telling you--I'm human. I succumb to self-doubt, to hating the flab around my middle, to wondering if I'll ever run that marathon or start the 30-Day Shred DVD I bought last month. (Another excuse here is that I'm still looking to scrounge up enough $ to buy the dumbbells and exercise mat.) It's hard to break out of my treadmill routine. I need the cardio but man, is my middle softening up. My back has been aching lately, and I know why--I need to strengthen my core. And then there's the issue of my wrinkles and my hair which is too long and whose highlights have grown out. I know that true beauty is from within, and that the joy of the Lord is my strength, but I still have thoughts of depression at my appearance and wishing I could improve in this area. Nothing major, but I think God wants us to look our very best, doesn't He?

--Good people dying. I know that it's bad when anybody dies, but when a good person dies it is just so hard to take. I'm thinking of the boy scout leader and boy scout from Iowa who were broadsided last weekend by a motor home that veered into their lane. Going to a scout trip, high hopes for fun and male bonding...crash. And Ed Thomas, the beloved legendary high school football coach from Aplington-Parkersburg (Iowa) who was shot and killed by a former player who walked into his weightroom Wednesday morning. My husband actually talked on the phone and exchanged some football defensive stuff with him. It really hits home--it could have been my husband! This one is even tougher to comprehend than the car accident because the person who caused the death MEANT to do it; he wanted this man dead. This man who was loved and respected by thousands. I am saddened and my heart goes out to Coach Thomas' family and community friends. Thank God that he was a devout, public Christian. So I pray that his influence will continue to point people to the only One who makes any sense at all.

Well, I better close. The kids are calling, and I have extended my "coherent thought" quotient for the day!

On a brighter note, Mark and Cy just returned from their first fishing excursion of the year! Their first one EVER as father and son. Mark just learned how to fish last year, and he is so awesome about finding time to do the little things with the kids that mean so much to them. I need to work on that.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."--John 14:6

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


About fourteen years ago when Mark and I went on our honeymoon, we drove five hours north to Hayward, Wisconsin. Actually, we drove a few hours north of there to Superior and crossed the bridge to Duluth, Minnesota in a heavy rain--then turned back south to Wisconsin because it just didn't look that fun "up north". So we drove down to Hayward and settled in the beautiful woods there for a few days, staying at a Country Inn and taking in the logging show, fireworks, and more local festivities. We didn't plan our honeymoon--we just packed and drove north the day after our wedding, venturing into new territory for the first time (at least for US it was a first). We had a great time (albeit a short one, if you ask my husband) and even bought tourist shirts that said "Up North" on them. (Nothing says GEEK like newlyweds with tourist t-shirts, right? Ah, young love.)

Time and money constraints, raising a family --the usual life "interruptions"--kept us from venturing that far since last weekend. This time the destination was five hours northeast, to Lake Surprise by Townsend. A few years ago Mark's brother married a girl whose family owns this beautiful vacation home on the lake. This time, it wasn't just my hubby and me; we had five little urchins in the two back seats behind us, and so we borrowed a set of DVD players with headphones (many thanks, Chad & Jodi!!) to brave the trip. For the most part, the kids were quiet and happy during the journey. Friday afternoon we arrived at this little "patch of heaven".

It would be an understatement to say that we were pampered. Greg and Marin fed us, had beds for us, and provided all of the water toys, kayaks, canoe, paddleboat, towels, etc. All we had to do was bring ourselves, basically. (And we were in a family gathering of EIGHTEEN people!) So needless to say, they really went out of their way to make us feel welcome and free to have fun.
And fun we had. Another understatement! When the kids weren't living in fear of their father the Throw-you-in-the-lake Monster,

they were busy learning how to kayak...

...making sand pies...

...digging & planting a beach garden with their baby cousins...

...relaxing on the water...

...sharing stories around the campfire (Going on a Bear Hunt)...

...and catching his first turtle!

Mark tried kayaking,

but he felt a lot more secure in the canoe. This picture makes me laugh because I took this shot moments before a fish jumped out of the water behind them. (The very fish they were seeking to catch!)

Personally I really enjoyed learning how to kayak. Not much of a swimmer, I was surprised to find out how much I liked feeling almost a "part" of the water.

I even snuck out on the lake early Sunday morning for my own private worship with God! I could talk with Him and sing to Him without anybody else around to notice! As I cut through the glassy surface of the water, it occured to me that perhaps God created the lakes to reflect the majesty of his Creation, as if He were looking down on us and wanted more than just an "aerial view". I know it sounds a little corny, but who knows?

We came home two days ago and I am still doing laundry, nursing the kids' sunburns, and trying to catch up on lost sleep. But that is all part of the camping experience, and we had it about as easy as you could get it! Thanks to our hosts Greg, Marin, and Kierta (front center) for making the family camp weekend a wonderful time that we'll always remember!

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?--Isaiah 40:12

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cute Things They Say, Take 5

"Mommy, do you know what I like about you? That you don't have ones (pointing to her chest) that stick out. Some people have ones that stick out, but it wouldn't look normal on you." --Shae, age 6

"You just don't understand kids these days, Mom." --Cy, age 8, trying to explain why "not talking back" to bullies doesn't work

"I do exercise Mom!" --Wynne, age 3, doing reverse sit-ups on the apparatus in Daddy's weight room (not pictured here, of course)

"Eating ice cream is a PRIVILEGE, isn't it Mom!" --Shae, age 6

"Can you pass me a foik, please Mama?" (fork) --Paige, age 6

"Can we PLEASE get to my softball game on time today, Mom??" --Ally, age 10

Summertime for Teachers

Having been a public school teacher (in my former life B.C.), the most dreaded words you always seemed to hear were, "At least you get your summers off!"

And it just made you sigh. I mean, how can you explain to people that working all day with kids is tiring, frustrating, exhilarating, important--and that you truly need a few months "off" to catch your breath? And teach them again in summer school? or enrichment courses? or to become a student and take classes to renew your teaching license? And that you only officially have about 18 days off if you really sit down and count them?

Anyway, Mark is still in the field of teaching (just completed his 15th year) and so we had our first "day off" last Thursday. (After he completed his morning weight room hours, that is.) We hadn't been to the zoo for 2 years, so it was high time. The last time we went, Wynne was a baby. This time, we knew she would really enjoy seeing the animals.

Since he was 3, Cy has had an affinity for the rhinoceros. At that time, he took a yellow highlighter in his stubby little fingers and drew a pretty lifelike rendition of a rhinoceros, complete with his maleness. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to send his drawing of "Nockerus" to Dad and Crazy Darby. They loved it and started calling Cy "Nockerus". The name has stuck, and so has our boy's connection to this guy. I think this is the fourth picture we've taken of them together over the years...

The highlight of the animal visits was probably at seeing the tiger. He was really putting on a show when we were there. Mr. Tiger walked right past us several times, and the only thing that separated us was about 1/2 an inch of glass. He pranced by so quickly that my pictures don't do him justice.

The kids were excited to check out the new children's play area ("new" to us, anyway). I think we spent at least an hour there. I also think that the entire city of Madison left their unsupervised children in the mega-slide that day.
We managed to round up our entire posse for a picture there.

Somehow the kids got a hold of the camera and took some shots of the animals. This one of the river otter (and company) is my personal favorite!

About an hour south of Madison is Governor Dodge State Park. We hadn't been there since I was pregnant with Ally; B.C.! I had printed out a few letterboxing clues before our trip, so we had extra incentive to visit. Turns out we didn't need any extra incentive. I had forgotten how beautiful this park is!

As we entered the woods at Pine Trail, the kids kept saying, "This looks like 'Jurassic Park'!" The large-leaved foliage and moss-covered rocks & trees definitely made you consider it...

After about 2 miles of hiking uphill, our little Indy (yet again!) found the box on our first hunt!

Then we posed the kids for a possible Christmas card. When I wasn't terrified that somebody was going to fall several feet to their grave, I was admiring the sheer awesomeness of this cliff.

Hunt #2 took us on a long walk along Cox Hollow Lake and up another hill. Which seemed more like a mountain, but I'm told there aren't any mountains in Wisconsin. Coulda fooled me!

Both hunts were outstanding and exhausting. We hiked for almost three hours to get the job done! I preferred the second hunt because it was written from the perspective of an old miner, and the planter used a lot of terms that made you think like "circling a kettle" and "this-a-way". Mark used the compass to veer off of the trail a bit, and Hallelujah! He found the box!
The hikes were extra-challenging for me because I had to do the majority of the Wynne carrying. She walked a great portion of the way, but sometimes her little legs just couldn't take the steep ascents and descents. It was a bit of a haul for Mommy, but I was overpaid with hugs, kisses, whispers, and daisies.

To cap off our first "Teacher's Day Off", we ended our day with a delicious supper at Culver's. Eating out for a family of seven is something we just can't do very often, so it was a REAL. TREAT. We arrived home in the dark, tuckered out and tummies full with plenty of good memories of our day for sweet dreams.
All in all, it was a really great start to our summer vacation!

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! --Psalm 118:24